This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Every now and then we read of the wonderful beauty of the English railroad stations, and contiguous grounds, and unfavorable comments made on the condition of our own. But the traveler over the Pennsylvania Railroad to New York, will find that however true this reproach may have been in the past it is now in a fair way to he removed. In many places the banks have been newly sodded, and are kept mown, and at some of the stations, notably Princeton Junction, which is the branching place for Long Branch, the flower gardening, the walks, and the general finish, are all creditable to correct gardening taste. Further improvements may yet be made by the introduction of Virginia creepers, Trumpet vines, and Honeysuckles' over the stations and bridges, as well as the grateful shade of deciduous trees on hot Summer places. This famous company already deserve well of the traveling public by the expense they have been under in stone ballasting their roads, thus removing the terrible annoyance of dust that renders so many roads a punishment instead of a pleasure to the traveler; and when to this the eye is to be delighted with beautiful scenes in living characters, as well as beautiful architecture in station-houses, railroad traveling will become as great a recreation as a " ride in the park." A ride to New York is however prolific in natural floral beauty; for we have to go a part of the way through New Jersey which may be regarded emphatically nature's flower garden.
On this occasion the Blue Flag and the Sweet Water Lily made sheets of pretty color, and the Cynthia Virginica, a peculiar orange tinted composite gave an unique appearance to the meadow scenery. The Sisyrinchium, or " Blue-eye" grass, made the fields as blue as the sky, but those who would enjoy this pretty sight must travel before noon, for soon after that the flowers close for the day.
The towns and cities along the line grow ; but not particularly fast. Trenton with its potteries, having recently added to this peculiar industry the art of burning pictures in fine porcelain, is evidently prospering. New Brunswick, Rahwav, Elizabeth, and other cities with their wealth of frame buildings also grow slowly, but chiefly apparently by their contiguity to their larger sisters, Philadelphia and New York. Numerous handsome frame dwellings have been built of late years, evidently by some who do business elsewhere; and this class of houses will no doubt become more numerous, as the railroads make traveling rapid, cheap, continuous and comfortable. The gardening connected with these houses - and it is with this chiefly that our readers are concerned - did not strike me as having progressed much of late years. Trees, plants and flowers wholly unsuited to the wants or characters of the surroundings abounded, and I could not but be impressed with the fact that the tree peddler had been there.
Right near the windows in the glare of the full sun, where some pretty and fast growing tree might delight by the fragrance and beauty of its flowers, or afford a luxury by its grateful shade, a little Kilmarnock Willow or a Weeping Mountain Ash, would be stuck in; or if in some cases a tree had been thought of, it would be perhaps a switch about as thick as ones thumb, and six or seven feet high, and we may be tolerably sure of reading the inscripiton " In the sacred memory" on the owner's tombstone, long before there is the possibility of his fondling his children or lolling in his easy chair under its umbrageous branches. For the tree peddler is always an enthusiast on small trees. " They grow best you know." In some cases, especially where new streets are laid out, larger trees are employed, but these are generally of the refuse stock of nurseries in which they had evidently been standing for years thickly together without removal since they were first set out, have to have their heads cut off by the planter who has " guaranteed them to grow," and so has had to cut them down to bean poles in order to save their lives. The gardening is on a par with the planting. The trees being planted without reason, the walks and roads correspond. Why they are led here or there no one could tell.
The chief fashion seems to be to have an immense circle between the front door and public road, around which you wind 150 feet perhaps in the full sun, when a straight walk of one hundred feet would have done just as well. Wondering and musing on all these things I found myself at last on board of a beautiful river boat, bound for Providence; a sort of floating palace in which tasteful art had been given free scope, and furnished so much to admire, and little for fault finding, that I wondered still more that men and women who evidently could enjoy good taste and culture, should be satisfied with garden horrors. So we sailed along Brooklyn and the Long Island shore for miles; the houses more pretentious, but still generally tasteful and beautiful; the gardens larger, but still execrable. It is no wonder that Americans seem to take no "stock" in gardening. They are rarely enjoyable. Why it is that that which above all things might be made so full of pleasure at so small a cost, is the most expensive of wasteful expenditures, cannot be discussed in a letter and here. I am only recording the experience of a rapid ride.
I breakfast in Boston before the sun has fairly risen, and it is not long before I see that though we laugh at Boston pride, and Boston ways, there is much of which she may well be proud. Instead of going through miles of sun-broiled streets, one cannot go far without coming under the branches of a shade tree; and the suburbs, which in this city seem never but a mile or two away, have all the streets beautifully protected by shade trees, some of the trees being of great age. And in their old trees Bostonians take great delight. Here and there we come on their remains, preserved by an iron fence perchance, and telling us that under it General Washington took command of the American army, or in some other way letting us know that the tree is associated with the history of the place. I was at a loss to know how Boston comes by its financial power. Only think of a banking capital of about $27 per head for each one of its inhabitants, for the city does not seem very large. From some of its little hills you can see all over it, and, as I have said, you can get to its beautiful shaded suburbs anywhere on short notice. But the secret is soon found if you go to the depots in the early morning. Horse cars and steam cars go everywhere into the country, and the people live there.
Though this city can Only boast of being the third city in the Union in population, taking it on the "where do you sleep?" principle, a credible authority assured me that not less than 500,000 persons had members of their families employed in the city, adding to its wealth, if not to its census. The absence of any remarkable public gardens surprised me, until I found myself in these suburbs. There are squares, commons, and gardening art around water reservoirs and public buildings, but not what we would expect from the gardening fame of Boston; but I now saw that the suburbs themselves form one vast garden, and little more is required. It is a stony country, and Massachusetts is famous for its stones. But they come useful for fences along the roadside. Along the sides and out of the crevices of these old stone fences grow berberries and roses, and numerous other bushes, making the most inveterate Englishman never once sigh for his famous Eglantines or Hawthorne hedges. Indeed when he rides over the smooth flinty roads, and looks over head at the English Elms, Eng-lish Ashes, English Horse Chestnuts, English Maples, and at the broad drives over-arched with trees often a hundred years old, as they lead to famous old mansions grey with age, and lovingly embowered with vines and foliage, in the midst of broad and well-kept lawns, he may well believe he is in Old England still.
The gardens are in striking contrast with the average of modern ones, as already referred to. In no place in the United States-have I seen so much good taste displayed. It is evident that good landscape gardeners as well as good architects have had employment here, and that mere weed-pullers and tree-peddlers are at a discount so far as "laying out and planting grounds" are concerned.
It is remarkable that with such an evident taste for good gardening and tree planting about this city both in the present and the past, there should be so few extensive nursery collections in the vicinity. The character of the trees planted show that a large number of them come direct from English nurseries, and therefore it is mostly European trees that abound. If Mr. Hovey had said in the English gardening papers, that American trees were not popular with Boston planters he would have been in the main correct. His mistake was in considering Boston synonymous with the United States. I have more yet to say of Boston gar-dening, but the pressure on the Monthly's. space this month compels me to stop now.